Recent acquisitions and a focus on the small and medium business space have led Microsoft to restructure some of its applications under a single brand.

Microsoft Business Solutions, which was launched at an global partner conference

Wednesday, will include products from Navision Software a/s, which the company bought in May, as well as software from Great Plains, which Microsoft purchased last year. Both Navision and Great Plains develop back-end software designed to help companies manage business affairs such as human resources, accounting and customer relationships.

Jodi Uecker-Rust, corporate vice-president of Microsoft Business Solutions, said the combination of Navision and Great Plains allows the company to offer users applications that automate end-to-end business processes across most corporate divisions and departments.

Achieving customer growth in the small business sectors will mean altering sales processes to fit in with the generally more conservative business plans of smaller companies, said Tami Reller, another corporate vice-president of Microsoft Business Solutions.

Existing price structure and solution packages, for example, have proven challenging for resellers, Reller said. Some of the solutions are offered at six different price points and figuring out a quote gets even more difficult if discounts are factored in, she said.

Microsoft is responding to the channel’s challenges by moving to a simplified linear pricing structure, said Jeff Young, Microsoft vice-president of sales and marketing for North America.

“We don’t want anyone wondering when the best time to buy a solution is. The best time to buy a solution is right now,” he said.

Microsoft’s market share in the business solution space is not what the company would like to see, said Reller, so a big commitment is being made to marketing and awareness campaigns.

“This fiscal year we’ll spend almost double of what we spent last year on marketing,” said general manager of marketing for North America Nigel Burton.

The campaign will include 400 corporate events for mid-market businesses, seven million direct mailers as well as a focus on using the MSN.com and bCentral.com Web sites as tools to sell Microsoft software, he said.

Burton also foresees an increased commitment to providing channel partners with quality sales leads, setting the goal at 28,000 leads by the end of the 2003 fiscal year.

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